St. Vrain Valley schools to start with remote learning as staffer is tested for COVID-19

Students in St. Vrain Valley School District will begin the fall semester online, the district announced Tuesday after the Boulder Daily Camera reported that one school has a suspected coronavirus case.

In a letter to St. Vrain Valley parents and staff, Superintendent Don Haddad said all students will take classes remotely through at least the last week of September. At that time, the district will re-evaluate public health data, such as the number of COVID-19 cases and positivity rates, to determine a possible return to in-person learning.

Classes begin Aug. 18 for all grades except kindergarten, which begins Aug. 20.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Haddad wrote, “however we are convinced that it is in the best interest and safety of our students, teachers, staff, and community at this time.”

The update comes after a staff member who worked in an in-person summer class for ninth-graders at Thunder Valley K-8 developed symptoms of COVID-19, reported the Boulder Daily Camera. The employee is being tested, according to a letter sent to families and staff.

Kerri McDermid, chief communications and global impact officer for St. Vrain Valley Schools, said she did not have details about the potential case, adding “this did not have an impact on the change in our reopening plan.”

The district’s previous reopening plan called for all students, except those in preschool, to begin the year in a hybrid learning environment. Students would have been split into groups that alternately attend school in-person and virtually. St. Vrain is also offering a 100% virtual education program.

The hybrid plan would have still required educators to be present and teach in school facilities five days a week, despite their hesitance to do so. In a July survey of 770 St. Vrain staff members, about 78% said they were somewhat or very uncomfortable returning to school this year. The largest percentage of respondents (44.5%) said they preferred to start the 2020-2021 school year fully online.

Additionally, of those respondents who had children attending St. Vrain schools, more than 57% reported feeling somewhat or very uncomfortable sending their kids back if the district were to adopt an in-person model.

Adam Francis, a science teacher at Frederick High School, wrote a letter to the St. Vrain Board of Education in July, calling it “imprudent, dangerous and unethical” to send students and staff back to school as part of “a grand experiment.” He was pleased to hear about the change Tuesday.

“I am happy that the district listened to concerns and examined emerging evidence and repositioned their open plan to meet those needs to keep students and staff safe,” Francis said.

St. Vrain Valley is the latest district to move education online to start the fall semester. Denver Public Schools extended virtual learning for most students through Oct. 16; Jeffco Public Schools is hosting remote education through Sept. 8; and Aurora Public Schools plans to leverage remote learning through Oct. 8.

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